Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

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Malaysia’s Tropical Spice Garden is a great place to go in Penang with kids, but there are a few ways to enjoy your visit even more.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

THE TROPICAL SPICE GARDEN IN PENANG

One of the best parts of visiting Penang is the food. We love Malaysian food, and learning about the spices that comprise its flavor palate is fascinating. The spice trade also played a large role in the region’s history, and that made a day at the Tropical Spice Garden even more interesting.

If you’re interested, we have a complete family travel guide to Penang and a guide to Malaysia with kids, but here are our specific tips for getting the most out of a visit to Penang’s Tropical Spice Garden.

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Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Get a Guide

Look at the reviews of the Tropical Spice Garden. I did before our visit. There were a lot of good reviews and a lot of bad reviews. When I looked closely at the good and bad reviews, there was a very specific difference between them. The difference? People who wrote good reviews hired a guide, and those who wrote bad reviews didn’t.

That’s a big generalization, of course. There are people who would love it or hate it regardless, but I can tell you that we would have had a different experience if we had wandered through the Tropical Spice Garden in the heat without any guidance. I’m pretty sure that I would have left thinking “meh.” It was the guided commentary that made it especially interesting.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

The Tropical Spice Garden has audio guides for rent, as well as actual humans to walk you around. We hired a person on staff, and he was excellent.

He explained the origins and medicinal qualities of many of the spices Malaysians use regularly: ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and many others. He also wove some of the nation’s history into his explanations, describing how the Spice Trade, the British and World Wars affected the Peninsula.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Leverage Your Expectations

They call this a “garden,” but the Tropical Spice Garden is not a manicured and orderly plot of horticulture. As a matter of fact, in some places, it looks a lot like any old jungle.

It’s also hot. Really hot. Humid too, so don’t forget to bring water. Along the three main walking paths, there are stairs and uphill walks, so it’s best to leave the stroller at the front.

Also, the website claims to have a lot of “kids activities” and tours. What it doesn’t say is that many (all?) of these depend on having a certain amount of kids, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it needs to be pre-arranged. Call ahead and see if or when these activities will take place. A regular tour with a guide was plenty for us.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Carry mosquito repellent

The mozzies can be bad in places here, often worst near the water. The Tropical Spice Garden staff provided us with a nice citronella-based mosquito spray, and we suggest you use it if you can. However, it won’t hurt to bring a backup bottle of your favorite brand — just in case — or cover up if needed.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Talk about spices beforehand

You’re going to be eating lots of amazing food in Malaysia. Here’s where you can find out why it tastes so good. Look up some of the most common spices beforehand.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Know which spices you like. Talk about which Malaysian dishes you’ve tried and which spices were involved. This will make the tour even more interesting for you and the kids.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Have a bite or drink

The Tree Monkey restaurant in the Tropical Spice Garden serves great drinks in the afternoon and even better Thai food in the evenings.

Take a cooking lesson

The Spice Garden offers cooking lessons, as well. We love cooking lessons but didn’t take one here and now I regret it. We’ve taken cooking lessons in neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, but I guess because we were in Malaysia for so long we put it off…and then we were out of time!

Step into the gift shop

I rarely recommend the gift shop of anywhere, but we really enjoyed the smells coming out of this place. The coffee table books related to the Tropical Spice Garden were also really nice and make excellent souvenirs.

In addition to the spices for sale, other items worth seeking out are the various oils, salts, and soaps using Malaysian spices.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

THINGS TO DO NEAR TROPICAL SPICE GARDEN

Below are a few other things to do in Penang. If you need more ideas, check out this post for detailed information about things to do in Penang with kids.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Entopia

Once known as the Butterfly Farm, this has recently opened after a significant renovation. Great opportunities to see and interact with beautiful butterflies and more.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

ESCAPE

This action-packed park has zip lines, rope swings and much more. If you plan to do this and the Tropical Spice Garden in one day, then definitely start your day early.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Taman Negara Pulau Pinang (Penang National Park)

This is one of the smallest national parks in the world. We went nearly a dozen times during our year+ of living in Penang. We would hike to Turtle Beach and hire a boat to pick us up there, take us to Monkey beach and then back to the dock. I’ve read mixed reports on the state of Monkey Beach recently, but we always enjoyed the hike to Turtle Beach.

HAVE YOU BEEN TO TROPICAL SPICE GARDEN?

What did you think? When did you go? How much time did you spend in the northern part of Penang? Did you eat there or buy anything? Tell us about your experience in the comments, or contact me directly.

Visiting the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang with Children

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel.

Image Credits: #5, #6, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #16

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